Not a single picture hangs on the eggshell walls. A faded couch and recliner fill the cubicle-sized room. Legos are scattered across the vinyl floor.
Living paycheck to paycheck. Fighting for their family. Fighting for their dreams. Fighting together.
An official letter sends one a thousand miles away. The other is left carrying their hopes, their future. Phone calls, emails, and letters fill the void. Together, they fight. Together, they hold on.
Land, oceans, and sand separate them. One fighting for his country, the other fighting to bring their son into the world. One fighting for freedom, the other fighting emotions as their newborn son fights to breathe.
Machines beep. Machines breathe for their son. Machines keep him alive. Weeks feel like years. But phone calls keep them from falling apart, from giving in. Together, they fight.
Six months pass. A father meets his son. Holds him. Holds his wife.
The eggshell walls are still bare, but it doesn’t matter.
Love fights through the rain, through the storms, through the battles of life. And they’ll continue to fight. Together.
Living your truth isn’t easy. It’s an internal battle, a fight to be who you are, regardless of what others think. As a young person, it’s daunting to come out as what others perceive as different, as a pariah, and voicing your dreams that are bigger than the town you live in can lead to ridicule, taunting, and words whispered that you’ll never make it.
But as you get older, as you become wiser, you realize that you can live your truth and be loved for who you are. You can chase your dreams, even when others say it’s impossible. And anyone who doesn’t support your truth, your dreams, is nothing more than a tiny speedbump on the road of life and not worth fretting over.
Blake Henry is living his truth and chasing his dreams, and his road to National Showman has been paved with obstacles, but through hard work, determination, and perseverance, he is inching closer to walking across that stage.
This is his story. This is his truth.
How was it growing up in a small community, where your dreams are bigger than the small town you come from?
Growing up here in a small town was actually great in ways. I feel it taught me to love and trust people and not take things for granted. But it was also challenging to be who I truly was living in a small country town. I had seen people before me that came out that we’re treated so badly just because they were gay and it caused them to leave town. When I finally came out it was because I wanted to live my truth and be who I actually was and not live a fake life. I was always the same person but I felt like I was lying to myself and everyone else.
When I came out I was 17 years old my friends had taken me to a club called The Connection in Louisville I obviously had to sneak in cause I was too young. That is when I first saw the art of Drag. I saw queens such as Terri Vanessa Coleman, Hurricane Summers, Syimone, and Vanessa Demornay. There were also male entertainers Landy Saavedra and Mykul Jay Valentine. I used to say someday I want to do that but never thought I actually would.
As far as dreams, I always wanted to do something bigger. I knew there was more in life for me besides growing up here in Greensburg and living a traditional life. I knew that simply wasn’t for me. I had many dreams. The first thing I wanted was to be a parent. In 2014, I moved from Greensburg to Indianapolis to improve my career as a restaurant manager because I wanted to bring in enough income to eventually start a family. Things didn’t go as planned but it did happen in 2016 after I moved to Louisville. 2016 was a big year for me – I started performing and soon as I got my feet wet performing, I found out Zaidyn was coming along. Other dreams I had were to make a difference not only in the LGBTQIA+ community but my local community. Back when I first came out as gay, the gay clubs and bars were about making people feel welcomed and like family but now it’s just not the same. I strive to use the platform I have to make people feel like they have someone. It’s not easy being a part of our community. Many of us lose our blood family because they don’t agree with our lives. Many people of the LGBTQIA+ community commit suicide because of how they are treated for being who they are or because they don’t feel comfortable coming out or because they think bad about themselves because sometimes that’s what society puts in our heads. If I can make a few people feel better about themselves, I might encounter someone and it saves their life.
What has it taken to get to Nationals?
As far as Nationals it’s taken A LOT to get to this point. When I started performing I didn’t think I would get into pageants and I did. Pageants are very expensive and after winning two pageants – Mr. Bar Complex and Mr. Lexington Pride – I finally decided I wanted to do a National pageant. The National Showman pageant stuck out to me because it’s about costumes, rhinestones, furs, jewelry, etc. and that’s a lot of the things my stage persona presents. I’ve been preparing for this pageant for about 2 years it’s been very time-consuming and of course, not one thing has gone how I planned. It’s been very stressful but pageants teach performers discipline, endurance, and professionalism.
What does winning the title mean for you?
Winning this title means a lot to me. It will give me a platform in my community. I want to bridge the gap between the “gay” and “straight” community. I want people to see us for who we are as individuals not just our sexuality. Winning this title will help me grow further as a performer and travel and become the face of business for the system. Reigning as a National titleholder is a big responsibility. You have to be approachable and social, but also helpful and have skills to grow a business because that’s what pageantry is.
What’s it like being a single parent while chasing your dreams?
Being a single parent while chasing my dreams is very hard. Anyone that is a single parent has it hard. It’s a challenge. I have to juggle my time and be able to switch between tasks like crazy. Having a 4-year-old that’s very demanding while preparing for shows or pageants is tough. When you are performing people see you on stage for 5-8 minutes or so at a time. What they don’t see is how it took 2 weeks to rhinestone the costume you are wearing, or how long it took to pick the perfect costume for the number you are doing, or even how long it took you to present the performance you want to give for the number exactly how you want it received. I have to be able to do all those things plus take care of my child. I find myself constantly having a project to work on in my free time so when he is occupied doing something I can take a few moments to work on something. Or I just stay up most of the night if I’m pushing a time limit. I wouldn’t change it for the world though.
You can support Blake and his dream of becoming the next National Showman by sending donations to him through:
Family isn’t defined by blood. It’s defined by the people in a person’s life that care about them. That are invested in them. That wish for their happiness. That cheer them on. That cheer them up. It’s the people that are there when the storms blow in and the waters are rough. We became family through marriage, but we are sisters by choice.
Throughout the years, I’ve seen your struggles, your heartache, your darkest moments. I’ve seen you define your self-worth by a man that never deserved you. Anyone can find a leech to stick to their right ass cheek. But you deserve more than that. Expect rainbows, sunshine, laughter, love, and acceptance. That’s the least you deserve. And if a man doesn’t give it to you, don’t just walk away… run.
Giving everything you have – your heart, your home, your joy – to someone who didn’t appreciate it is in the past. Leave it in the past.
You are strong. You are beautiful. You are funny. You are a hard worker. You are a great mom. You deserve the best.
No man or person should treat you as an option. As someone to call when he or she needs or wants something. As someone to run to when he or she chooses to.
That’s not love. That’s not friendship.
Love and friendship should be reciprocal. It isn’t always one person picking up a phone to call the other. It isn’t always one person making an effort while the other stands idly by. If it isn’t reciprocal, if there isn’t any effort made by the other person, you don’t need it.
We are family by marriage, but we became sisters by choice. Ride or die. Someone to call that won’t talk you out of a bad idea, but will promise to bail you out of jail. Someone who will stand by with the camera ready to roll as a woman rudely blocks an entire aisle in Wal-Mart. Someone who will dive into a pool, chest flop, and come up smiling, just to see you do it.
Life’s meant to be filled with laughter. To be enjoyed. To be treasured.